How To Forgive When It Feels Impossible, by Peter Horrobin
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
When one is reading a book by an author who is in charge of some sort of organization, it can be expected that the author will attempt to promote the agenda of that organization. Admittedly, this reader at least does not find the aims of the organization in question to be problematic. Forgiveness is an important mater and it is an issue whose absence causes a lot of problems. It is instructive in reading this book to see exactly where the author feels that forgiveness is most important by what is mentioned the most often. As might be imagined, certain areas are focused on again and again. There are comments about personal traumas suffered because of the horrors of war, such as people who survived genocide in Rwanda. There are lots of references to the traumas of sexual abuse, as one might expect as being a particularly tough sin for many people to forgive. It is also telling just how often the author comments on the sins of parents, and the need to forgive oneself as well, in the overall context of forgiveness in areas where our sins and errors are mixed with those of other people.
This book is a short volume of about 100 pages and it is divided into twelve chapters. After a short preface the book begins with a discussion of forgiveness as the master key to the house of one’s life (1). After this there is a claim that the prayer to forgive others is the most powerful prayer on earth (2). This is followed by a discussion of a divine “law” of blessing that states those who forgive others will automatically receive certain blessings (3). The author then talks about the obstacle that people do not deserve forgiveness (4) as well as how it is vitally important to forgive our parents for everything (5). This is followed by a discussion of those who have stolen part of our lives, including time and money (6) as well as the need for us to forgive ourselves (7). After this the author discusses how often we should forgive (8) as well as our need to apologize to God for blaming Him for the problems of life (9). This is followed by eight steps to using forgiveness as “God’s miracle key” according to the author (10), followed by a chapter of final thoughts (11) and personal stories of healing through forgiveness (12).
One of the areas of this book that I found most puzzling was the emphasis on forgiving others for personal benefit. While I believe that there are personal benefits to forgiving others, and this book does a good job at talking about the spiritual benefits of forgiveness in realizing that God is merciful to us and so we ought to be merciful to others, at least in part, this book focuses far more on the expectation of healing as a result of forgiveness. And while I think that this is certainly possible, I do not think it can be taken for granted that there will be miraculous healing in one’s life simply because one has cultivated a sense of forgiveness towards others, although we can expect that those burdens that a person deals with because of being afflicted with a spirit of vindictiveness and resentment will be ridden when one chooses to forgive and let go of one’s hurt and resentment and give it over to God. I would have liked to have seen the author focus more on the problem of hypocrisy when one deals with the relationship of forgiveness and justice, but the author’s approach is one that does not enter into the core asymmetry that exists when people praise God’s mercy to them but are pitiless and merciless in dealing with other people. It would appear as if the author was more interested in presenting a good cop argument for forgiveness when I was more interested in a bad cop approach. That is a personal preference, though, and I think this book will be encouraging to many people, even if I am concerned that it may give people false expectations of miraculous results.